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Typhoon Haiyan: what it would be like to lose everything and have to start again

Source: CBM International - Fri, 13 Dec 2013 12:18 PM
Author: CBM
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

I just turned 60, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything and have to start again, at this age, or any age. Henry is 63. When Typhoon Haiyan hit his island off the coast of Concepcion in the Philippines, he knew it was going to be bad, but he had not anticipated so much loss.

I have now met Henry a couple of times. CBM with our partner team from the ‘Association of Disabled Persons, Iloilo’ (ADPI) did a relief distribution in Henry’s village. This included food and other important items, such as heavy plastic roof sheeting, mosquito nets, blankets and torch lamps. This time we had returned to do a post-distribution survey, to decide on our important next steps in the relief effort.

It was during the survey, that Henry invited me to visit his home. Henry’s right leg was amputated when he was in his 20s, after an accident. I could not believe how quickly he navigated his way along the rocky path using his single crutch. In fact I couldn’t keep up with him. When we arrived, I was horrified to see the destruction. Henry and Rosalies’ home, together with those of other family members close by, were almost totally destroyed.

They told me their story. They have a very close knit family, who work together and support each other. They told me with tears that Rosalie’s sister and nephew drowned in the storm surge. As well as their homes, their fishing boats and nets have been destroyed. Their other main source of livelihood comes from the coconut palms on the hill behind their village.  Up to 60% of these magnificent, tall trees have been smashed to the ground by the typhoon. The trees remaining, will take several years to come into full production again.

Henry and his family are resourceful. They have real ‘get up and go’. I saw how they had already used the plastic sheeting provided through CBM and its partner, ADPI to make temporary repairs to their house.

We are about to again distribute essential items in Henry’s village. However what I really love about the work I do for CBM is that we are here seeking to make a long-term difference.

Working with our partner organisation ADPI, we are planning a range of initiatives. Henry managed to save his crutch in the typhoon. Other people with disabilities have lost their essential assistive devices, such as crutches, wheelchairs and glasses. We are seeking ways for these to be replaced.

Working with government and other organisations, we are also considering how we can work with courageous people like Henry, his family and community to create long term resilience. For example, how sustainable livelihoods can be regained, and how homes can be rebuilt which are more resilient to the stronger typhoons which climate change seems to be causing.

I am very grateful for the privilege of working with CBM and being part of building resilience. Thank you to CBM’s wonderful supporters who make this possible.

Author: David Lewis

Read more about the CBM response to typhoon Haiyan, one month after.

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